Well, we had a brief moment this summer when it seemed life might return to some version of pre-pandemic normal – at least for those who are vaccinated and not seriously immuno-compromised. But sadly, with case numbers rising rapidly once again, that moment appears to be passing.
At this point, our diocese has reinstituted an expectation that everyone – vaccinated or not – should wear masks when indoors at church for any gathering of any size. Our bishops do not see the need to resume livestream-only worship or to stop congregational singing at this time, but we will keep you posted regarding any changes as protocols evolve.
We had been planning to hold a fun-filled, parish-wide, outdoor gathering on September 12 after worship, but given the current situation with Covid, we’ve chosen to postpone a gathering like this to a later date – perhaps Oct or Nov if community health indicators improve.
In the meantime, our Vestry is planning a special celebration during worship on Sept 12, and we will follow that with a hybrid in-person/online Vestry Parish Update immediately after worship for those who would like to hear details and ask questions about the many transitions happening in our parish life and ministry. During this Update we’ll hear from Lois Sauer, the chair of our newly appointed Strategic Design Team who will lead us (with the guidance of Ministry Architects) through the process of organizational development and re-organization over the next 18-24 months. And we’ll also hear an outline of plans for various ministries this fall and staffing updates as well. Please make a note on your calendar to attend!
I know many of you are eager to hear progress updates vis-à-vis our vacant staff positions and other staff transitions at St. John’s, so here you are:
• Music. We have identified a new Interim Music Director! Her name is Marcia Klinder-Badgley and you will see her at the organ and piano bench from now until we make a permanent hire (except for 8/22 when she will be on a backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail). She comes to us most recently from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh and has many years’ prior experience in Episcopal and other liturgical churches like ours. She has mastery of multiple musical styles, and has extensive experience conducting handbell choirs, children’s choirs, and musical theatre. She is a terrific musician with a warm, enthusiastic, collaborative spirit. Please welcome her when you have a chance!
• EYC (Episcopal Youth Community). We have identified a new EYC Coordinator! Her name is Kendall Bauer and she comes to us with extensive experience working with children and youth though the YMCA, Girl Scouts, and youth recreation programs. She also was a co-founder of the Episcopal/Lutheran Campus Ministry at UNC Pembroke. She will begin on August 24th and will have a couple of weeks overlap with Joy Shillingsburg (current EYC leader). Mo. Amanda will be her direct supervisor. This is currently defined as a one-year position with potential to become permanent. This gives us room to restructure the position (if needed) depending on outcomes of our upcoming long-range planning process this fall.
• Outreach Ministries. While Joy Shillingsburg will be shifting out of her job as EYC (Youth) director beginning Sept 1, we are thrilled that she will continue as Director of Outreach at St. John’s at 10 hours per week. Her role in this area is to continue supporting all those who are leading and serving in various outreach ministries across our parish, to help St. John’s embody the presence of Christ in relationship to the vulnerable in our community, and to continue engaging us at St. John’s in the cooperative work of building beloved community with others in our community. St. John’s has received a $36,000 grant from our diocese that will pay Joy’s salary for an additional 20 hours per week as she works to transform the Wake Forest Community Meals program into an independent non-profit organization called The Wake Forest Community Table (WFCT) while serving as its founding Director. WFCT will continue to build the collaboration that has grown out of the Summer Nutrition Program she spearheaded more than five years ago (now called the WF Community Meals Program since it began serving meals weekly throughout the year during Covid, and not just in the summers.) We’ll be celebrating this new ministry in the months ahead, but we can all begin now by praying for God to bless Joy and to prosper this new ministry!
• Children and Family Ministries. Our plan for this year is to ensure that all the elements of a strong and healthy children/youth/family ministry are in place, but not by hiring one single person to oversee all these elements just yet. We hope to return to this kind of model, but perhaps build that position into a one Children, Youth, and Family Minister position overseeing all aspects of our ministry with young people and families from infancy through high school, and perhaps Adult Education too. This and other options will be explored this fall during our long-term strategic planning process with Ministry Architects. Whatever we decide, I believe our common goal is to create a plan for a strong, sustainable ministry in this area that will not be plagued by frequent staff turnover. In the meantime, Mo. Amanda will be spearheading the formation of a Christian Formation Team that will be comprised of three different work-groups who will focus on the formation of Adults, Teens, and Children, respectively. Sarah Bentley Allred will provide trainings and consultation as needed. Between Mo. Amanda and the Children’s work group, all the same elements of ministry that we enjoyed under Sarah BA, (our first Children and Family Minister at St. John’s) will continue, altered though they may be by pandemic-related limitations. Please take a moment when you see her to thank Mo. Amanda for her willingness to take on this very important role in the ministry of our parish; and if she calls to ask for your help, please seriously consider saying “yes” if you can!
• Office. As you may be aware, Mimi O’Donnell is gradually transitioning into the role of Financial Secretary in our office, with Barbara Kwiatek as her trainer and direct supervisor. From now on, please direct any finance-related questions to Mimi at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at the church office at 919-559-3656. Barbara is shifting into full-time ministry coordination and communications work for us. As our ministry grows and becomes more complex, these administrative roles are more important than ever. Please welcome Mimi and let her and Barbara know how much they are appreciated for their flexibility and steadfast commitment to the people of St. John’s!
I want to conclude by acknowledging that even while there’s a lot to be excited about at St. John’s these days, there remain some important aspects of our ministry that are currently “falling through the cracks” and have been for some time now – since the start of our church membership explosion in 2019 and through the pandemic that began in early 2020.
The roles of our entire staff and Vestry have been expanding and shifting since 2018 to meet new needs and possibilities, and that’s been very exciting. But the change is coming so fast and furious that no matter how much longer or harder we work, we aren’t covering all the bases. This is why our Vestry has brought in Ministry Architects: to help guide us through this growth and transition so we can come through the rocky moments of change in one piece, both as individual staff members and as a community, and be better for it in the end! Yet even with the help of Ministry Architects, it will take time. And in the meanwhile it must be acknowledged that important, valuable things (and by “things” I mean important, valuable moments of real ministry with real people) will continue to slip through the cracks.
I am particularly grieved by how these transitions over the last two years have impacted my capacity to be individually present with parish members and families who are going through enormous life changes, crises, or prolonged challenges to their health and spiritual well-being. Since early 2019 I have seen this coming, that the needs of a rapidly growing church (not to mention the onset of a pandemic) would begin sapping all the hours and energy I have – and then some – and still, real people with real needs would be left in the lurch.
I want to tell you that there have been moments in which this has kept me up at night. I feel guilty every single day for the phone calls and visits that have not been made. I ask God daily to “fill in the gaps” as I pray for each one of you that is pressed to the edge, but I know this part of ministry is not visible to you or comforting in the way that an in-person visit or even phone call would be.
This, again, is why our Vestry has brought in Ministry Architects: so we can more efficiently build up a parish structure that engages the best gifts and talents of all our parishioners, and free me (and other clergy) to do the things and be in the places where we are uniquely needed: pastoral care, worship, formation, and calling/equipping each of you for the ministries to which the Spirit moves you.
This is an exciting and creative time for St. John’s, but it’s also a hard and stressful time. May God bless us with every grace we need to continue walking the Way of Love together. May God bless all our best efforts, even when they fall short, and fill in all the gaps!
This comes with Love,